US STOCKS-Wall Street gains as markets look to aid package, Nasdaq closes above 11,000


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    * Weekly jobless claims fall more than expected
    * Western Digital sinks after soft outlook
    * Becton Dickinson tumbles as lockdowns hit medical devices

 (Updates to market close, changes byline)
    By Chuck Mikolajczak and Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss
    NEW YORK, Aug 6 (Reuters) - Shares on Wall Street shrugged
off a sluggish start and closed higher on Thursday, with the
Nasdaq ending the session above 11,000 for the first time as
investors hoped for a new fiscal stimulus package.
    Tech and tech-related heavyweight stocks such as Apple
 AAPL.O  and Facebook  .FB.O  helped pace gains on the indexes.
The tech-heavy Nasdaq clinched a new record high in early
trading, and closed above the 11,000-mark for the first time
after initially climbing above it on Wednesday. 
    The benchmark S&P 500 and blue-chip Dow were about 1% and 7%
away from their own peaks scaled in February.
    "Markets have been incredibly resilient, there is a big fear
of missing out and it is the old stalwarts, the technology
leaders that keep driving the market higher," said Sal Bruno,
chief investment officer at IndexIQ in New York. 
    Economic data released on Thursday painted a mixed picture
as U.S. Labor Department numbers showed a first fall in jobless
claims in three weeks, although a separate report showed a 54%
surge in job cuts announced by employers in July. The data comes
ahead of the government payrolls report on Friday.*:nL1N2F71R8
    Investors are looking to the next fiscal aid package to
further cope with fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. But Senate
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Thursday Republicans and
Democrats remained far apart over what to include in another
wave of relief.*:nL1N2F80Q6
    Senate Republicans have been told that negotiators have
until Friday to reach agreement. "If there's not a deal by
Friday, there won't be a deal," Republican Senator Roy Blunt
told reporters on Wednesday.
    "I’m not sure people are taking the drop dead date seriously
because most people probably view that as a negotiating ploy and
people realize the government is going to have to do something,"
said Bruno.
    Unofficially, the Dow Jones Industrial Average  .DJI  rose
185.66 points, or 0.68%, to 27,387.18, the S&P 500  .SPX  gained
21.39 points, or 0.64%, to 3,349.16 and the Nasdaq Composite
 .IXIC  added 109.67 points, or 1%, to 11,108.07.
    Ahead of the deadline for a new stimulus package, the focus
now shifts to July jobs report Friday morning, with analysts
forecasting a rise of 1.58 million new jobs last month and a
decline in the unemployment rate to 10.5%. 
    As major averages continue to rally off their March lows, 
powered by heaps of fiscal and monetary stimulus and
better-than-feared second-quarter earnings, the Dow and S&P
notched their fifth straight daily gain, with the Nasdaq
climbing for a seventh consecutive session. 
    The corporate results season is now in its final stretch,
with about 424 S&P 500 firms having reported so far. Earnings
have been about 22.5% above analyst expectations, according to
IBES Refinitiv data, the highest on record since 1994.
    Communication services  .SPLRCL  and technology  .SPLRCT 
were the best performing of the 11 major S&P sectors on the day.
    Among individual shares, Becton Dickinson and Co  BDX.N 
dropped after posting quarterly revenue below estimates as
delayed elective procedures during coronavirus-led lockdowns
squeezed demand for some of its devices.*:nL4N2F82XU 
    Western Digital  WDC.O  sank after the hard drive maker
reported weaker-than-expected fourth-quarter revenue and
forecast a soft current quarter.*:nL4N2F74HF
    Bristol-Myers Squibb Co  BMY.N  gained after the drugmaker
raised its annual profit forecast on hopes of a recovery in
demand for its hospital-administered drugs.*:nL4N2F746C
    ViacomCBS Inc  VIACA.O  jumped after beating analysts'
estimates for quarterly revenue due to high demand for

 (Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak and Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss;
Editing by Tom Brown)
 ((; @ChuckMik; Reuters Messaging:

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